Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China's Architectural Past

Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China's Architectural Past

Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China's Architectural Past

Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China's Architectural Past

Synopsis

In Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China's Architectural Past, Wilma Fairbank documents, from both a historical and a uniquely personal perspective, the professional and personal achievements of Liang and Lin. Wilma and her husband, the late John King Fairbank, Harvard University's eminent historian of modern China, were intimate and lifelong friends of Liang and Lin. It is this relationship that allows the author, herself a noted researcher of art and architecture, to paint a vivid picture of the couple within the context of China's turbulent past.

Excerpt

If we take only a distant, bird's eye view of the history of China in the twentieth century, it is often hard not to see it mainly as a century of colossal waste: wasted opportunities, wasted resources, wasted lives. How could there be purposeful national reconstruction when the agonies of foreign invasion and occupation were compounded by such viciousness in domestic politics? How could a balanced economy develop when the poverty of the majority was deepened by greed-driven and uncontrollable entrepreneurs at certain periods, or by the state's totalist extremism at others? How could individual acts of creation and intellectual exploration gain popular currency in a world of constant dislocations and fiercely unimaginative censorship?

The story of Liang Sicheng and Lin Whei-yin initially seems to support such melancholy reflections. Myriad layers of society's waste cluttered up and ravaged their lives, and at so many times the world simply gave them no room to breathe. But, as we ponder their story further, in all the moving and intimate detail provided by Wilma Fairbank, we become more conscious of the flashes of light that emanate from this strongly yet stressfully married couple. We hear bursts of laughter and the rattle of teacups in their living room jammed with friends. We see their patient scholarship slowly give back meaning to ancient architectural texts. We watch their skilled fingers guiding their drafting pens through the technical details in both Chinese and English, each written with equal elegance, and see vanished buildings regain their rightful place in a nation's consciousness. We sense the humor and fortitude that never left them even during prolonged and debilitating illness.

Both Lin Whei-yin and Liang Sicheng were born into the paradoxical China of the early twentieth century, where traditionalism crossed and coexisted with modernity. Lin Whei-yin's father was a talented political dreamer, a seeker of the new, who took two concubines to give him the children his principal wife could not. Lin Whei-yin, the elder concubine's only surviving child, received a good if informal education, and when her . . .

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